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Boys Swimming: Wingers send three swimmers, two relays to state

INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. - Three Red Wing swimmers - Tanner Alms, Hunter Connelly and Ethan Myers - and two Winger relay teams are headed to the state swimming and diving championship meet after Saturday's Section 1A championship meet.

As a team, the Wingers finished in fifth with a team score of 205. St. Thomas Academy won the section title with a score of 488, followed by Austin, which finished with 281 points.

The state swimming and diving championships gets underway at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center on Thursday with diving preliminaries. Swimming prelims take place on Friday, and the Class 1A championship gets underway at noon on Saturday.

Saturday started with a shocker for Red Wing, as senior Adam Sienczak could not compete due to severe neck pains, according to Red Wing head coach Kevin O'Brien.

"It was an interesting day. Not quite what we expected with all the success we had on Thursday," O'Brien said. "Starting off the day with a senior captain getting injured, not by his fault at all ... it was too much for him. But the boys who swam here today swam well."

Alms will make a return to state in the 500-yard freestyle, winning the section title in 4 minutes, 47.81 seconds. At the state tournament, Alms will go for his third consecutive 500 freestyle title. Alms also qualified as an individual in the 200 freestyle with a first-place time of 1:45.98.

"He still has some things we have to work on," O'Brien said of Alms' 500 freestyle performance. "He was a little weak coming off the wall on some of his turns. So he knows there's room for improvement and he's not fully tapered, so we're hoping he has a good state meet."

While Alms dominated the field in the 500 freestyle, Myers clinched an individual spot at state with a fourth-place time of 5:04.07.

The Wingers opened the section championship on a high note after making the state cut in the 200 medley relay. The team of Connelly, Dan O'Keefe, Chris Byrne and Alms took fifth with a time of 1:44.57.

In the 100 backstroke, Connelly was neck and neck with Faribault's Paul Sadergaski for the lead. On the second turn, Sadergaski was able to inch away from Connelly to win the section title with a time of 55.67. Connelly finished at 55.78.

"His start was a little deeper than we would have liked to have seen," O'Brien said of Connelly. "Just with that, he would have beaten the guy next to him."

In the final race of the day, the 400 freestyle relay, Red Wing was worried about qualifying for state with Sienczak out of the lineup. But the lineup of Josh Berg, Myers, Ted Toegel and Alms was able to sneak into state, taking sixth at 3:27.45, beating the state cut time by .06 seconds.

"All we wanted was a state cut," O'Brien said. "We knew it'd be tight without Adam in there. The boys were able to pull it off and sneak the relay in."